Recently I helped our younger teenage daughter, Emmy, purchase her first car. She had no idea how much used cars cost. I think she was hoping to afford a slightly used Lexus. What she got instead was a lesson in how much cars actually cost. Emmy hates it when I mention her by name in my blog, so I will just call her “Miss Enthusiasm” – “M. E.” for short.
When we started this process, like a lot of young people, Emmy’s, I mean M. E.’s concept of buying a car was rather simplistic: You buy a Japanese luxury car on Craigslist from someone you’ve never heard of named Vinny for a few hundred dollars. Your only ongoing expense is the gasoline fill-ups required four times a year. Period, the end. More esoteric concepts like collision & liability insurance, vehicle registration, tire rotations, oil changes and other routine maintenance were vague abstractions that she had never quite grasped – mainly because she invariably tuned out my relentless attempts to explain the substantial ongoing costs of vehicle ownership. I apologize, M.E., for intruding upon your much more fascinating texting conversations with Haley on more important topics like whazzup.
When the time finally came for her to look for a car, I told M. E. I would contribute up to $3,000 towards the cost. Anything beyond that – including insurance was her responsibility. The only part I am sure she heard was the part of about me paying $3,000 – which is really all she needed to know, because she was pretty sure that figure would be enough to get her that brand new 2015 Lexus LS she saw on TV. I explained to her that cars cost a lot more than she imagined, so she reluctantly lowered her sights towards a used car – specifically the 2013 Lexus LS – ideally with the Bose surround-sound stereo system and the chrome wheel package. I could tell I was in for an exhausting couple of days.
When I was first learning how to color in 1st grade, my art teacher taught us about red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black and white. Pretty much all the colors I’ve needed ever since. Then I got my first box of 64 Crayola crayons. It blew my mind. So many colors I had never imagined. One called Reddish Orange. Another one called Orangish Red. And Indian Red, which I could not in clear conscience draw with until they renamed it Native American Red.
Recently I learned that Crayola has actually retired 34 colors – including Lemon Yellow, Teal Blue and Thistle. Did you know that for the rest of eternity there will never be anything drawn in either Burnt Umber or Magic Mint? And yet for reasons unfathomable to the normal brain, they continue to crank out that annoyingly wimpy color, Periwinkle.
They’ve replaced the retired colors with nouveau-sounding ones like Asparagus, Bittersweet, Inch Worm and Tumbleweed. What the hell color is Inch Worm?
It’s hard enough for my 8-color-palette brain to grasp the difference between Sage and Mint. More astonishingly, for all the colors in Crayola’s 64-color box, I’ve discovered there are literally hundreds of shades of white. When did that happen?
My artist wife and I were discussing what color to paint her art studio. Apparently, it’s important that artist studios be painted in neutral tones like white – I have no idea why. I had suggested Bubble Gum Pink, but apparently that’s not quite neutral enough pour ma femme artiste. No, she insisted, it had to be a shade of white. A shade of white? Hmmm….
Recently my wife Michele and I started a new chapter in our lives by moving to a lovely, somewhat remote island. We also decided to start working together. We thought, what better way to strengthen our marriage than to spend every waking minute of every single day together – eating, playing, sleeping and now working? What could possibly go wrong?
Okay, I know what you’re about to say: What were you thinking? But before you question our wisdom, I should point out that our skill sets are remarkably complementary. On the one hand, my wife is an extremely talented portrait artist. And on the other hand, I am the husband of an extremely talented portrait artist.
My job will be to market my wife’s portrait business. I am an experienced professional marketer. For example, remember the pet rock – a crazy, fun idea from the 1970s that generated millions in sales simply by packaging an ordinary rock in a box with funny instructions about how to care for it? Brilliant marketing. No, that was not actually my idea. But the idea for selling a 25-pound box of litter for your pet rock was mine. Sadly, it never made it to market. Okay, perhaps this isn’t helping make my point about being a marketing guru.
My wife wanted someone to oversee marketing so she could spend more time painting – and shooting down every marketing idea I came up with. (I still think my idea for her to parade the sidewalks of Seattle in a sandwich board handing out coupons for $10 off a portrait would have worked. But alas, we’ll never know because she squashed that idea, too.)
Recently I turned 35 years old, and by recently, I mean 25 years ago. But more recently, I turned 60 – this past month. When you turn 60, you start asking yourself uncomfortable questions like, “How long has that mole been there?” You ponder your own mortality and your legacy and how is it that AARP got your mailing address so quickly.
Lately I’ve begun asking myself challenging questions: What have I done with my life? What do I want to do with the limited time I have left on this planet? Did I have breakfast yet? Where did I leave my car keys?
I wonder about the impact I’ve had on the people in my life. What might these people say about me if they spoke at my funeral? It got me to imagining, which got me to worrying…. a lot…. about what they might have to say:
My earliest childhood friend, Danny: Yeah, Timmy and I were tight – until he destroyed my purple bicycle. I loved that bike. You son of a bitch. When you rode it into that pond and wrecked the frame beyond repair, from that moment on, you were dead to me. You hear that, Timmy? You’re DEAD TO ME!
My first grade teacher, Miss Kelly: I remember Timothy, yes I do. He was a rather chatty young lad. An unhealthy need for approval, if you ask me. As I recall, he had the worst penmanship and he was a very slow reader. Took him forever to get through the book Fun with Dick and Jane. And every crayon drawing he ever did always included a rainbow. I privately wondered whether he might be gay. Read More…
My wife and I recently decided to move. Of course, when I say that, I mean that my wife decided we would move. As her husband, she did allow me some say in the matter. I had the option of coming along or staying behind in an empty house soon to be occupied by complete strangers.
I considered the pros and cons with manly logic, and in the end concluded that following my wife’s lead was probably the better option. Besides, that way I got to keep the giant flat screen TV.
The process of moving can be stressful. Just thinking about the endless list of tasks can feel overwhelming. If you’re planning to move any time soon, follow my advice and take the stress out of your move.
Step One: CHANGE YOUR MIND ABOUT MOVING. Seriously, what’s so bad about your current place anyway? Oh, sure, so your neighbors’ 17 pit bulls can get a bit annoying when they all bark at the top of their lungs every time a car drives by. Hello! – ear plugs?! But if you don’t want to heed my advice about not moving, I understand. My wife ignored it, too. Read More…
Recently my college-age daughter Rachel emailed me, asking for help with a problem. Such an event – being rarer than a sighting of Halley’s Comet – calls for all-hands-on-deck-full-throttle parental engagement. “I’m there for you, Rachel.”
Thus began an email exchange that I am proud to say profoundly impacted my daughter and our relationship. Her gratitude for my sage advice is evidenced in her words that, well, she couldn’t even put into words how helpful I was.
Rachel: Hey, Dad. Wanted to ask you something. My boyfriend Brad and me had a fight. I saw him with my best friend Brianna. They were holding hands. He says she’s just a friend, but I think he’s lying. Should I confront him?
Me: Thanks for your email, Rachel. I am happy to help. Frankly, this is a common problem for many young people. In fact, your mom often struggled with similar issues when she was your age.
Here are my suggestions. First, never start a sentence with a verb unless it’s a command. When you write “Wanted to ask you something”, the reader is left wondering: Who wanted to ask me something? My daughter? My boss? A strange man in a tall hat? You never want to leave your reader guessing.
Also it’s not “Brad and me had a fight.” It’s “Brad and I.” Me is the objective form of the first person pronoun. In this context, however, you need the subjective form.
Rachel: Whatever, Dad. I don’t think you understand. I think Brad is cheating on me. Last nite, I texted him. No reply. No idea what he’s up 2. What should I do? Read More…
[Note from the staff at VFTB: Last week Tim Jones wrote a piece called “Wedding vows I don’t remember making.” This week, Tim’s wife Michele has requested equal time for a rebuttal. Tim is confident his wife’s piece was written with as much love and sensitivity as Tim displayed in his post.]
I read my husband Tim Jones’ post last week titled Wedding vows I don’t remember making. I love my husband very much, and when I say “love” I mean, I put up with him. Can I be honest? Being married to a humor writer is no picnic. It’s almost like living with an eleven year-old, except that I don’t want to belittle the maturity of any eleven year-olds out there.
I have so much to be thankful for, being married to you, my husband / man-child, these past 26 years. I want to thank you for:
… your never-ending concern that I might get over-heated on a winter’s night from having too many blankets covering me and your thoughtful habit of yanking all those blankets to your side of the bed in your “crocodile death roll” maneuver in your sleep.
… your willingness to educate me about defensive pass interference in football. Thank you for being so flexible about our television viewing options each evening too. You’re always so willing to let me choose, so long as it’s ESPN 1, ESPN 2, ESPN Classic, or whatever channel broadcasts the Lingerie Football League.
It’s Valentine’s Day – a day each year when millions of us husbands take time to show our wives just how much they mean to us, before we go back to complaining about them to our male friends the other 364 days. Today, I’m thinking about all the joy my wife has given me these past 26 years. It’s the little things mostly, like when she gently reminds me for the fourth time that I forgot to take out the trash, or her endearing habit of nagging me about my weight whenever I reach for a donut, or her playful quips about how she’d be living in a far nicer house if only she had married that other guy.
I fondly recall that magical day when she and I walked down the aisle and both said, “I do.” I remember the vows we made to love, honor and cherish one another until one of us decides to kill the other. Admittedly, I was so lost in happiness that day that I may have forgotten a few details. Now, as I think back on our 26 years of wedded bliss, it seems that list of wedding vows must actually have been much more extensive. Here are some of the other vows I apparently made on that special day:
My dearest darling, I promise you, for as long as we both shall live…
…that I will respect you as my equal and never ask you to do a household chore that I would not be willing to do myself – with the addendum that I agree to killing all bugs like the icky spider in the bath tub, for that is a “man’s job” for which it’s perfectly reasonable to interrupt my Sunday afternoon nap even though you could have killed the damn bug simply by stepping on it with your shoe.
Don’t believe me? Then maybe you’ll believe a study which concluded that marriages where the women do all the housework while the men retreat to the parlor to smoke cigars, read the newspaper and discuss politics with other men in top hats are happier. Okay, so that study was based on focus groups of landed gentry horse farm owners in Greenwich, CT in 1879. But now a brand new study appears to validate those previous findings.
A recently released study by Norwegian researchers reports that the divorce rate among couples who share the housework equally is 50% higher than those where the woman does most of the housework. “The more a man does in the home, the higher the divorce rate,” said Thomas Hansen, co-author of the study titled Equality in the Home.
One conclusion emerges: Norwegian researchers apparently hate women. Another theory is that Norwegian men suck at doing chores. Still another theory is that lead researcher Thomas Hansen has a serious axe to grind over the fact his ex-wife, Ingebjørg, took him to the cleaners in their divorce. But that’s just my wife’s theory, and she’s never particularly cared for Norwegian men. (I’m talking to you, Sven Jorgensen.)
A long time ago in a university far, far away, I attended law school and passed the bar exam. Which just goes to prove that an outstanding law school education is no guarantee your life will turn out the way your parents had hoped. But I digress. My point is that if there is one thing I learned from my legal training, it’s how to create oppressively one-sided legal agreements primarily designed to obfuscate.
Therefore, as a public service to all five of my readers, I urge you, before you enter into a long-term romantic relationship like marriage or going steady with Morgan from your 11th grade biology class, to be sure you and your very special someone have signed a legally enforceable Relationship Agreement that clearly spells out what each of you agree to do – and not do.
I am proud to say that when it comes to suing one’s spouse, America ranks #1. We’re the most litigious society in the world. The United States has as many lawyers as the next six countries combined. Where else can a woman sue a local television station for making an inaccurate weather prediction or a man can sue himself?
My point is, if we’re not careful, we’re liable to get sued for the least little hit and run car accident I failed to report. (Wait, did I just think that or did I just type that?) Sometimes our fairy tale romances take a few unexpected turns and what starts out as Happily Ever After may later descend into the War of the Roses.